“The coolest thing is that after more than 50 years, the business remains family run,” said David Whiting in his March article in the Orange County Register.

It was a pleasure to have David and Cindy from the Orange County Register spend the day with Frieda and the Caplan family!

 

Get to know the people behind your produce department

Do you know who your supermarket produce manager is? Most people don’t, unless they happen to be in the produce department early in the morning when these hardworking men and women go through the inventory of beautiful vegetables and gorgeous fruits they have ordered for your local grocery store. That is why, on April 2, we are celebrating Love Your Produce Manager® Day to show our appreciation for their work.

So, why should you love your produce manager and other produce team members?

They know what’s what

Is this cilantro or Italian parsley? Is scallion the same thing as green onion? (The answer is yes.) Can you help me find a jicama? Your produce managers can help you navigate the produce department and find the exact fruit or vegetable you’re looking for. They can also answer your questions about certain products. Not sure how to eat a cherimoya? Your produce manager can help you with that!

They know what’s fresh

Produce managers definitely know their produce. They can tell you what’s in peak season and when your favorite vegetables will be back in season. They also have the knowledge to help you pick the best fruits and vegetables from the shelf!

They provide inspiration for your next meal

Supermarket produce people know how to make those fruits and vegetables look enticing with creative and colorful displays. Merchandising these perishables could be considered an art form, and it may even inspire you to pick up something for a recipe you’ve been meaning to try. While not all produce staff are gourmet cooks, many do have a handy tip or two about the best way to store and prepare some of the fresh items in your basket. Ask your produce manager about his or her favorite recipe and try it out for yourself.

They can help you get what you want in the store

It never hurts to ask your produce manager about hard-to-find items or to request specialty items. Produce managers are your connection to new and exciting produce. Your input helps them stock their shelves better and gives them opportunity to bring in something new to the stores. For example, back in the 1960s, a shopper asked a produce manager for what we now know as the kiwifruit. He, in turn, asked around, and we found them for him. The rest is history!

Two words: free samples

Would you like to know what a lychee tastes like? Your produce manager may be able to help you with that. In some supermarkets, produce managers can provide a sample of products upon request.

Now that you know how resourceful produce managers are, make sure to stop by and say hello to your local produce guy or gal the next time you’re in the store.

(And don’t forget to show them extra appreciation on April 2 on social media with hashtag #LYPM.)

Take egg roll and wonton wrappers beyond Asian cuisine

Egg rolls and wontons have never wandered far out of the American culinary purview.  After all, Chinese cuisine is one of the most popular ethnic foods in the U.S.

However, we have seen surge in popularity with egg roll and wonton wrappers in recent years as more people are cooking at home. Home cooks are wrapping and rolling fearlessly with all the video tutorials out there to guide them along the way, and with the wrappers being readily available at supermarkets.

[youtube=https://youtu.be/w4fth81B0_U]

But egg rolls and wontons have come a long way from the traditional filling of meat and vegetables and deep frying. Have you tried the Tex Mex, avocado, or salmon egg rolls at the Cheesecake Factory? Or perhaps the chicken wonton tacos at Applebee’s?

Clearly, these little pastry sheets are definitely meant for so much more than just egg rolls and wontons. They’re just waiting for you to unwrap and unleash a delicious culinary world beyond the traditional Asian applications.

Applebee's Chicken Wonton Tacos

Wok, away, grasshopper! Here are three creative ways to use egg roll and wonton wrappers.

Meal In a Cup

Eggroll wrappers fit perfectly into standard muffin tins, and smaller wonton wrappers are adorable in mini tins! After a quick trip to the oven, these pastry cups are ready to be filled with just about anything from sweet to savory.

How to: Spray muffin tins with cooking spray or brush lightly with olive oil, then fit one wrapper into each cup. Depending on a recipe, you may fill them and bake them off all in one go, or you may have to bake the cups first, fill them, then bake again. Either way, the results are the same: delicious, bite-size morsels!

With what do you fill them? Anything you heart desired! You can just spoon in some Chinese chicken salad, or take a southwestern turn and fill with black bean salad with avocado. For a hot meal, try ricotta cheese with meat sauce topped with mozzarella for a lasagna cup, ground turkey taco filling topped with cheese and tomatoes, or jalapeno poppers like this one below.

[youtube=https://youtu.be/wVQiP5kvomM]

Fresh Pasta Stand-In

No time to roll out fresh pasta? Egg roll and wonton wrappers to the rescue!

Use egg roll wrappers as lasagna sheets. No need to pre-cook the noodles! Just layer them in as you would with your regular lasagna application. Cover and bake until the noodles are cooked through, then you can bake a little longer or put the lasagna under the broiler if you like that brown and melty, cheesy crust.

As for wonton wrappers, they are just the right size for making ravioli. Fill these sheets with anything from simple ricotta (and bake for appetizer) to the show stopping raviolo al uovo with ricotta and runny egg yolk center.

[youtube=https://youtu.be/IGtSyNEGhEs]

Sweet Sensations

The sky’s the limit when it comes to using egg roll and wonton wrappers for desserts! Make the dessert cups by brushing on melted butter instead of non-stick spray. Sprinkle on some cinnamon-sugar for a perfect ice cream vessel (hm…dulce de lechce ice cream…), apple pie filling, or cannoli cream.

You can also make traditional shaped egg rolls and wontons that are crispy on the outside and filled with oozy, gooey, yummy sweet fillings like fried chocolate hazelnut banana raviolis, or S’more egg rolls filled with chocolate and marshmallow fluff.

[youtube=https://youtu.be/Y_yrKXVBGPE]

And by the way, these egg roll and wonton wrappers freeze really well. Pack unused portions into a zip top back, squeeze out all the air, and pop them into the freezer. They’ll keep for at least two months. Just thaw them out in your refrigerator overnight before use.

But seriously though, with all the things you can make with these wrappers, we doubt you’ll have them in your freezer that long.

Peak season citrus and fresh vegetables play major roles in this food-centric lunar festival

ChineseMerchandisingDisplay_NoBanner

Hang the red lanterns, gather your citrus fruits, and cook your noodles. On February 16, it’s time to welcome the year of the Dog!

Chinese New Year (or Lunar New Year) is the most important traditional Chinese holiday, and is celebrated around the world. The celebration starts on the second new moon after the winter solstice, which is on February 8, 2016, and goes on for 15 days. During this time, also known as the Spring Festival, those who celebrate visit temples to pay respect to their ancestors and pray for good fortune in the coming year. Small red envelopes of money are given to children as a token of good luck and prosperity. And, like most any family-centered holiday, everyone gathers around for a family feast, making Chinese New Year one of the biggest food holidays of the year.

Food is definitely a focus of Chinese New Year celebration, but it’s more than just nourishment. In Chinese traditions, foods served during the festival have auspicious meanings. Chinese traditions are rich with wordplay and symbolism. Some of the dishes and ingredients have names that sound similar to words and phrases referring to good wishes.

For example, “Kumquat” literally means “golden orange.” Symbolizing wealth and prosperity, the little citrus fruits, and sometimes the tree saplings, are given as gifts during Chinese New Year. Other “wealthy” fruits include Oranges and Tangerines. The larger citrus like Pummelos and Grapefruits symbolize abundance, prosperity, and family unity.

Another item that represents good fortune is Daikon or Asian Radish. In one Chinese dialect, the word for radish is a homophone for “good fortune.” This is why the savory radish cake is traditionally eaten during Chinese New Year celebration. But Daikon is more versatile than that. It can be added to soups and stews, steamed, or eaten fresh, chopped up or thinly shaved into salads.

Daikon could be a part of the mixed vegetable dish that represents family unity. This typical stir-fry is made with a touch of oyster sauce for business success and a mix of vegetables like Shanghai Bok Choy for close family ties, and Woodear and Shiitake Mushrooms for longevity.

The ultimate longevity blessing, however, comes from the noodles. Long and uncut, they symbolize long life. While Chow Mein is a traditional choice, other Asian noodles like Yakisoba are used for pan-fries and stir-fries, and Udons are used in soups. Shrimp may be added for liveliness and pork for abundance of blessings.

One of the many Chinese New Year wishes translates to “May your happiness be without limit.” With good eating like this, it definitely is the beginning of a very happy year!

Kung Hei Fat Choy! (Happy New Year and be prosperous!)

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Our president and CEO Karen and our company were featured on Intel’s #SheOwnsIt series which spotlights women small business owners and their journey of success.

“It is an absolute requirement to be fearless when you run a business. Sometimes you’re going in a direction no one else has been before. And the leader has to be leading the charge.”

And we’d follow her anywhere.

Demystifying different types of purple-fleshed sweet potatoes, one tuber at a time

Stokes_Oki_Ube_Group

There is no doubt that purple sweet potatoes have gained popularity over the past year. But not all varieties of purple sweet potatoes are created equal.

Oh yes, there is more than just ONE purple sweet potato variety!

The three main types of purple flesh sweet potatoes consumed in the U.S. are Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes, Okinawan sweet potatoes, and Ube (pronounced OO-beh). Consumers—and even food writers—often confuse these three because of skin or flesh color, different names, and even because the Internet shows confusing images. As a matter of fact, one of them is not even a sweet potato at all but a true yam. (And no, a yam is not the same as a sweet potato either, but that’s a whole other story.)

Follow us down the purple trail, friends.

Stokes Purple® Sweet Potatoes

Born in the USA, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes originated in Stokes County, North Carolina. They’re now grown commercially in the perfectly sandy soil of central California. Available from late August through early to late spring, these sweet potatoes have purple-tinted skin with bold purple flesh that intensifies when cooked.

StokesPSP_Shot_9-8-16-12

Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes have a drier, denser texture, and better-balanced sweetness than their orange counterparts. A good source of vitamin C, Stokes Purple® has the most anthocyanins, the antioxidant compound in the purple pigments, of all three purple sweet potatoes.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Stokes Purple Sweet Potato Mash

Because of their gorgeous color inside and out, Stokes Purple® sweet potatoes are often mistakenly identified as either Okinawan sweet potatoes or worse, ube.

Okinawan Sweet Potatoes

The origin of the Okinawan sweet potato reads like an adventure novel. Believed to have come from Aztec South America with the Spaniards to the Philippines and China in the 1490s, the plant did not reach Japan until the 1600s. The initial planting was in Okinawa, the southern island of Japan, before they were cultivated all over Japan. Eventually, these purple tubers ended up in Hawaii and became a part of the native menu, where they are also known as “Hawaiian sweet potatoes.”

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Okinawan Sweet Potatoes

Beige on the outside and lavender-purple on the inside, these purple sweet potatoes are grown in Hawaii for the U.S. market. Blue-ish purple once cooked, they have a delicate, slightly sweet taste and a creamy texture that is on the starchy side.

Food52 - Purple Sweet Potato and Haupia Pie
Photo: Food52 – Purple Sweet Potato and Haupia Pie

Because Okinawan sweet potatoes originated from Japan, they’re often confused with Japanese sweet potato (also known as Murasaki sweet potato). It doesn’t help matters that the Japanese sweet potato variety has reddish-purple skin too, but the flesh is actually off-white to cream-colored. You know that reddish-purple potato emoji on your phone? ? This is a Japanese sweet potato!

Instagrammer @MackAnneCheese captures Stokes Purple® and Japanese/Murasaki side-by-side here.

A photo posted by Mackenzie Anne Smith (@mackannecheese) on


Ube (Purple Yam)

Ube is having a moment right now as dark purple donuts (made famous by Manila Social Club in New York City) and purple ice cream pop up everywhere. Also known as a purple yam, ube is a staple of the Filipino kitchen and is well loved all over Asia as a dessert ingredient for its sweet and nutty flavor.

A photo posted by Manila Social Club (@manilasocialclub) on

With all the attention on ube comes the confusion about this elusive yam. (Yes, a true yam!)

First of all, ube is rarely available fresh in the U.S. Many people would say that they indeed have bought some “ube,” but photographic proof usually shows they’ve bought either Stokes Purple® or Okinawan sweet potatoes, or sometimes even taro root.

This, folks, is a fresh ube.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Ube

Blame it on the over-eager Internet! Search for an image of ube yourself and you’ll understand the conundrum. Only when you search for ube’s botanical name of Dioscorea alata will you find ube’s true form: a tuber with brown, bark-like skin and flesh that ranges from white with purple specks to lilac.

Now, the ube that is used widely comes as a jam (Ube Halaya) or in a powder, extract, or frozen form. It turns out that preparing these true yams is labor intensive and that is why they’re commonly available in processed form.

ube_packaged

Let’s recap what we’ve learned so far.

And remember, Murasaki or Japanese sweet potatoes ? are only purple ON THE OUTSIDE!

Now, go forth and explore all the majesty of purple sweet potatoes!

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Ahh. The warm scent of cloves, allspice and cinnamon. Cooking with these spices fills up a room with a lovely, comforting aroma that always reminds me of the holidays. There’s no better time to brew up some hot mulled cider!

To make mulled cider or mulled wine, you can use any blend of spices you like, but typically, mulling spices include cloves, allspice, cinnamon and orange peel. Frieda’s mulling spices made it easy for you and pack all of the spices into a 3-ounce bag, ready to go.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

The ratio of spice to juice is about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of spice to a half-gallon of juice. I didn’t have cheesecloth handy to make a spice sachet, so I just put the loose spices right into the pot with the juice.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

I heated the cider in my slow cooker for 2 hours on low. The house smelled fabulous!

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

I just strained the juice to serve. I also strained the remaining cider and refrigerated it for later enjoyment.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

Yum! If I had cinnamon sticks handy, they would have been perfect in these glasses with a wedge of orange or lemon. The perfect warming winter drink! (If you are feeling more naughty than nice, you can always add a splash of brandy to your mulled cider for a little extra warmth…)

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Mulled Cider

Cheers!

– Hazel

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You’ve probably passed by this item thousands of times in your supermarket’s produce department or baking aisle. Crystallized ginger – dried slices of natural ginger root, cured and coated in sugar. It sure sounds nice, but what do you use it for? Here we have 10 great ideas for putting this sweet, spicy and comforting ingredient to work in your kitchen:

1. Chop and add to batter for cookies, such as ginger snaps, or quick breads like gingerbread, orange bread or banana bread.

2. Chop and add to at pan with butter, fresh lemon juice and sliced green onions in a saucepan. Heat until melted and spoon over hot rice and serve with chicken or fish.

3. Finely chop and use as a finishing touch on apple pie a la mode or a whipped cream-topped brownie.

4. Chop and combine with nuts, brown sugar and spices for a baked apple or pear filling.

5. Roughly chop and add to a stir-fry for a sweet and spicy bite.

6. Dip pieces in melted chocolate. Let cool and serve as a special after dinner treat.

7. Roughly chop and add to water and sugar mixture to make ginger-infused simple syrup. Strain before adding to drinks, such as iced tea.

8. Finely chop and sprinkle into fruit salad for a spicy, zesty flavor lift.

9. Finely chop and add to a homemade cranberry sauce with orange zest.

10. Just snack on this sweet treat right out of the package. Crystallized ginger is especially helpful for calming the stomach while traveling.

Can’t have enough? Here are some more simple recipes:

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Wow your friends and family with these unique and delicious holiday potluck dishes

Having friends over for Thanksgiving dinner instead of visiting family for the holiday is not a new idea. “Friendsgiving” is a usually potluck dinner with friends (aka “the family you choose”) which could be in addition to or instead of the traditional Thanksgiving feast with family.

That Thanksgiving potluck your office is having? That’s technically is a Friendsgiving too!

In the sea of sameness of traditional holiday dishes, why not bring a creative and adventurous dish so you’ll be remembered?

And because you’ll be using fresh ingredients that are bit off the beaten path, you won’t have to fight anyone at the grocery store for that last Russet potato or orange sweet potato.

We’ve gathered some great recipes for you here. You’re welcome. #GobbleGobble

Honey Roasted Cipolline

Frieda's Specialty Produce Honey Roasted Cipolline Onions
Honey Roasted Cipolline Onions

Sweet and savory, and looks impressive. Nothing at all like your grandma’s creamed onion! Recipe here.

Celery Root and Cauliflower Puree

[youtube=https://youtu.be/cwZO5-bSYAg]

Set those paleo, gluten-free, and/or low carb friends at ease with this delicious “mash.” Recipe here.

Heirloom Tomato Pudding

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Heirloom Tomato Bread Pudding
Heirloom Tomato Bread Pudding

A cross of stuffing and a pasta dish. Flavorful and definitely a showstopper. Recipe here.

Whole Roasted Purple Cauliflower

[youtube=https://youtu.be/F4Db2i_GJ4Q]

Actually pretty easy to make. You just need a little time! Recipe here.

Pear and Ginger Pie with Struesel Topping

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Pear and Ginger Pie with Strusel Topping

Warm your heart and soul with this fragrant and a little spicy departure from the usual apple pie. Recipe here.

Purple Sweet Potato Pie

Frieda's Specialty Produce Stokes Purple Sweet Potato Pie
Stokes Purple Sweet Potato Pie

Turn the whole season upside down by adding a purple pie to the table! Recipe here.

Don’t eat a jackfruit alone–call your friends and host a jackfruit party

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Jackfruit

So, you’ve always wanted to try fresh jackfruit, and your local supermarket finally stocks them. Upon seeing the fruit in real life, the sheer size of it scares you—weighing in anywhere from 10 to 20 lbs. What are you going to do with all that fruit?

You call your friends and family over for a jackfruit party, that’s what you’re going to do.

The jackfruit is truly a community fruit, a fruit worth sharing. The largest tree fruit in the world, jackfruit could grow to be 100 pounds. In Asia, the bounty of the fruit is usually shared among friends and family members. Seriously, fruits from one tree could feed a village!

Here in the U.S., you can still call up your “village” and share the jackfruit experience. Set up a jackfruit station where you can show your friends how to cut into the jackfruit. Hand everyone a quarter of the fruit, then have each person divvy up the sweet yellow pods so everyone can take some home. (The seeds are also edible once cooked.)

You can even build a luau or tiki party around a jackfruit. Forget the pig roast. Haul in a 20-pound jackfruit and use that as the showpiece! Make vegan Hawaiian kalua “pork” with jackfruit for dinner and serve up the fresh cut jackfruit for dessert.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - Jackfruit Luau

If you can’t get a party together, lucky for you, jackfruit pods are also great for freezing. Lay those yellow pods on a baking sheet, freeze whole, then put them in zip-top bags for storage. You can even refrigerate a whole slice of jackfruit—skin and all—to process later too if you can’t do it all at once.

For fresh jackfruit pods, choose fruit that is fragrant with a golden brown skin that yields to pressure. Softer fruit means it’ll be easier to process, and the pods will be fragrant and  sweet too. If you need jackfruit for cooking like pork, you would want an under-ripe, green and firm fruit.

Watch this video below and follow our handy guide to processing jackfruit like a pro. You’ll master this giant fruit in no time.

[youtube=https://youtu.be/GCxBQCYrDH4]

To open a jackfruit, you will need:

Spray cooking spray or brush vegetable oil onto the knife to prevent sticking. Wipe down and re-oil the knife often so you don’t get stuck with all the sap at the end.

Quarter the fruit by first cutting crosswise, then lengthwise into quarters.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - How to open a jackfruit

Frieda's Specialty Produce - How to open a jackfruit

Cut out the core from each piece. You should be able to get to the pods more easily now.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - How to open a jackfruit

Using your hands or a paring knife, extract the yellow pods from the filaments and remove the seed from each pod. Reserve seeds if using, or discard.

Frieda's Specialty Produce - How to open a jackfruit

Frieda's Specialty Produce - How to open a jackfruit

Frieda's Specialty Produce - How to open a jackfruit

Rinse the pods in water, and they’re ready to eat. Pods can be wrapped/covered and refrigerated overnight or frozen whole. Wrap any uncut chunk(s) of the fruit in plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze.

If the jackfruit leaves behind any gooey, sticky sap, clean up by rubbing the spots with cooking oil, and then hit it again with soap and water.

Have fun at your party!

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